As Sorley and Helena moved off to locate where Ember was last seen there was a howl behind them.
Sorley turned to glance at Helena. “I think that’s the wolf that knocked me out earlier.” His whisper carried too well in the glazed snow, and he dared not utter another sentence.
– – –
Ember ran from the wolf when it knocked Sorley out. She knew there was nothing she could do to help other than keep herself safe. She stuck out in the snow, and the only thing she could do was find a place to burrow and hide. Before she did, she took note of where Sorley was being taken and decided to hide on the other end of the camp. She saw green humanoid figures walking around followed by what appeared to be humans in chains and masks.
“Not good, not good,” she mumbled to herself as she turned northward again, finding a nice small cave to secret herself away in. As soon as she entered the cave a scent filled her nostrils that was not present outside the entrance. The scent was one similar to Sorley and his parents, but earthier. Thoughts of all the lore of humanoid monsters living underground flashed through her mind and she was ready to turn and run when a man shorter than Sorley but with a rather large, bushy beard stepped behind her.
“Look here, Lourek, we have ourselves some lunch!”
“Finally! I’ll start the fire, Flaskheart. You kill the thing.”
“I don’t taste good, I promise! You’ll be sick for weeks!” Ember blurted out in her fear. “Uhh, I mean…yip yip?” If the skin under her fur was visible the strange men around her would have seen her blush in embarrassment.
“By Vshnr! The red-furred fox speaks!” Flaskheart, the man blocking Ember’s path out of the cave jumped back towards the cave mouth.
“Get ahold of yourself, dwarf. She’s probably some idiot warlock’s familiar that got caught by the orcs. Must’ve been human or elven since it’s still alive.” The dwarf making the fire, Lourek, didn’t stop his work. “We’ll have a conversation with it and if we like it maybe it can help us find better food. I’ve never eaten a talking animal and I won’t start now.”
Ember heard the word dwarf and remembered they had been on earth long ago. Legends ranged from powerful weapon-smiths to mud-dwellers. Taking a moment to look around Ember noticed mining picks as well as some hammers and tongs. They were dusty from disuse, but that gave her an idea of the type of dwarves she was dealing with.
“Talk to it? It could be a hag’s familiar, here to steal our secrets and lead her owner here!” Flaskheart pulled a hip-flask out of his pocket and took a short pull.
Ember was getting tired of being called ‘it’ and since they already knew she could talk she spoke up, “‘it’ has a name. I’m Ember, and who are you master dwarves? Also, why are you here? Get lost on a mining expedition to find a rare ore?”
“Nah,” Lourek responded, “our tunnel collapsed and we dare not mine. The orcs would surely find us then. My pendant allows us to undetected by scent, but the sound travels for miles in the Ice Plains. I’m Lourek, by the way. That scared dwarf behind you is Flaskheart. He’ll say he’s my brother, but he ain’t no family of mine.”
“Stop calling me Flaskheart. My name’s Lukren.” Flaskheart walked past Ember and sat on a rock. “He’s called me Flaskheart since we were little and the name stuck. I agree though, he’s no brother of mine!” He handed his hip-flask to Lourek who took a short pull and gave it back. “He uses the flask at least as much as I do.”
– – –
Whispering as quietly as he could without mumbling Sorley said an invisibility spell from memory. He used a small pouch of flour as a component to allow himself to hit both himself and Helena.
“Where did you get that?” Helena asked with a tone of intrigue in her voice.
Sorley whispered, not caring if he mumbled this time, “it was small enough the orc didn’t notice. Stay quiet and head for the small cave. I sense Ember there. Do you see it?”
Invisible both Sorley and Helena carefully walked towards the cave, hoping they wouldn’t get caught by their scent.
When they finally arrived at the cave Ember was poking her head out. “He’s nearby. I can feel it.” She paused a moment, sniffing the air. “Oh, I smell flour, Sorley, and something sweet. Like a dewy flower in the morning sun.”
A short, bearded man appeared next to Ember. “By Vshnr. He rescued a light elf.”
“Or did the light elf rescue him, brother?” Another voice asked from inside the cave.
“You aren’t my brother, dwarf!”
Sorley ended the spell, revealing himself and Helena. They were closer to each other than they thought and were barely able to stifle their gasps.
“Quiet,” the dwarf from inside said in a loud whisper, “and get in here before you’re seen. Hurry!”